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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jan 25, 2010 7:58pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

I wrote that post quickly and somewhat inaccurately...
Actually, Lesh and Weir were both music-theory fiends who delighted in coming up with complex, complicated patterns for their songs. Many of the songs you list as being more 'modern'/jazzy-type songs are Weir's. Lesh was noted for coming up with tunes that were hard to play.
Garcia seems to have favored smoother, more 'flowing' or simpler structures in his songs. It's interesting that the songs of his you note as having 'jazz' progressions tend to be his country ballads....

I'm not sure I agree with your Dead musical progression, but you must hear it very differently.
Of course they started out with simple blues/r&b/pop covers (as I listed in the 1966 songs post), but 1967 they were writing more difficult stuff. New Potato, Born Crosseyed, these can't have been easy to play! Other things like the Other One or the Eleven (or various other 'numbered' jams) basically started off as time experiments. And tunes like Clementine or the Spanish Jam likely began by jamming off themes they heard on records. I suspect they were putting more thought (and rehearsal) into jamming themes & changes rather than songwriting.
And by Aoxomoxoa, there's a blend of originals (almost all from Garcia), notable for their quirkiness. It's starting in '69 that we see an intentional focus on simpler country-influenced songwriting (I went into lots more detail in my acoustic-sets post). From '69-'71 we see a process of simplifying the music & becoming more a basic rock band....

So I don't see the Dead as steadily moving into 'more sophisticated changes' - by that token, their '80s/90s songs would be the most complex - but I think about '75 is when they hit the peak of playing in a kind of prog-style wilful complexity. And even then, something difficult like Slipknot coexisted with a model of simplicity, Franklin's Tower....
There's a number of things at work. One, their openness to new music and desire to play in all different genres - Garcia said that he felt the Dead had unlimited possibilities, and any record they put out would only show a small part of what they could do. Then, their democratic equality as members - other than a brief phase near the beginning when Garcia was the musical leader, this was a band that would take songs & musical ideas from anybody, whether it be the new drummer or the kid guitarist.
As you say, rehearsals must have been very educational. And this was a band that rehearsed endlessly for every album & tour (at least up to '77) - the music onstage is like the tip of an iceberg.
And aside from how they composed music - this was also a band committed to improvisation - not strictly musically speaking (the Dead were only secondarily an 'improv' band), but in the approach to music. Setlists might get repetitive, but they never wanted to play a song the same way twice, they strived for the music to be 'in the moment' without being planned. Maybe one way of putting it is that they wanted a show to be a structured accident...they were willing to live with the failures & disagreements & sloppiness in order to stumble into those moments of harmony.

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Poster: midnight sun Date: Jan 26, 2010 5:27am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

thanks for the reply...i agree with a lot of your statements in general but largely disagree with your views on band evolution...i think we do hear it quite differently

everything up to Aoxomoxoa is quite simple in chord structure, almost all of it is based on the mixo-lydian mode (major scale with b7th, more or less the blues scale in major, with a minor 3rd used for some of the soloing, esp Other One) there are some exceptions, as you point out New Potato and Born Cross-eyed have some variation (as well as Cryptical) i don't think there is anything beyond major and minor chords (although i would like to reference a copy of Anthem to be absolutely sure) the attraction seems to be mainly in complex rhythms, the Other One (based on E7#9) has a pulsating 12/8 time signature (4 groups of 3 per pattern) Eleven (E,A,B,A) is essentially the same except a beat is dropped every 4th group of 3, Born Cross-Eyed has accents on the 2nd beat of each measure and that quirky triplet run...the vocal parts for a lot of these tunes are quite complex, but there again i'm not hearing anything harmonically evolved...Dark Star (A and G sometimes D) and St.Stephen (E D A and sometimes B) are both common mixo-lydian mode, Chinacat is a little more sophisticated with the way it changes tonality, but still just the mixo-lydian scales...Spanish Jam is a 2 chord jam with E7 (E Phrygian mode with major 3rd) and Fmaj7 (E Phrygian with minor 3rd) typical for the Spanish vein

some of Aoxomoxoa is quite quirky, this is where Jerry makes the move into what i would consider more complex changes (Doin' that Rag, Duprees...) around 78 or so Garcia stated this was his first set of tunes, admitting he dropped these tunes because they were far too awkward for improvisation, he even said that Chinacat was "marginal" in this sense, although he did pick it up again a year or so later

High Time, Black Peter, Lay Me Down, Sugar Mag, Deal, Comes A Time...all of these have more complex chord structures than anything previous with the added benefit of being very easy to solo over...i believe the first tunes in minor keys show up around this time, Uncle John's has a 7/4 solo section in D minor, Loser has a chord progression that moves throughout A minor, then modulates to an A major mixo-lydian progression for the chorus...Playing is in 5/4 mixo-lydian mode (but for some reason lends itself to freeform)...Wharf Rat is a 3 chord mixo-lydian main structure that cycles through some tonality changes during the chorus...Bird Song is a gem that has some nice changes but mostly settles into a strong mixo-lydian mode jam

from there we go onto Stella where the progression incorporates a strong major-minor mix and a distinct chromatic descending line bridging the chords (E Emaj7 Asus4 A Emi Cmaj7 B7) as well as a solo section which is in half time value for the 2nd half...Eyes has more major 7th chords and a strong progression that modulates from E to G for the chorus, with the solos alternating between E Ionian and Bmi Dorion modes 2 bars each, with the addition of the relatively complex tag structures for soloing that BG pointed out to us...Let It Grow incorporates some more complex changes driven by a dynamic latin/jazz rhythm that i believe was unprecedented by GD as well as some distinct rhythm shifts throughout the solo...Scarlet is back to the mixo-lydian mode for the most part but also takes on a latin flavor for the jam theme...haven't fully checked out Unbroken Chain, but the changes sound more modern than anything from the sixties or even the previous 2 years ...Slipknot incorporates equal division of the octave and an intense jam in A minor...yes Franklin's is a 3 chord wonder, but very effective and would remain in the repertoire long after most of the 60's tunes of similar structure would get dropped...haven't looked at Stronger Than Dirt or Lazy lightning, but they sure sound modern to me

Lady with a Fan flows beautifully despite all the odd time bars (which i wasn't even aware of until i tried to notate it) and features what i believe to be the first jam in the Lydian mode (extremely rare outside of jazz idioms)...At A Siding is one of the most powerful and unusual instrumental sections that moves through some strong changes...Estimated is in F# minor dorian mode with a strong change to G mixo-lydian for the chorus along with additional changes, features jams in both modes and alternating 7/4 and 14/4 rhythms...then their is another 2 chord wonder Fire On The Mountain that really works with it's reggae type rhythm...If I Had The World To Give has a strong sense of line through the chord progressions with diminished and major 7th chords...Shakedown has a strong disco/funk feel, good changes in D minor with a modulation to C minor for the chorus and an extended jam...Althea is another gem of a tune, strong chord progression...Feel Like a Stranger is another modern disco/funk jam...Lost Sailor has some of the most unusual progressions, as close to modern jazz changes as they get...Circumstance features a wicked jam in C over a Bb pedal bass

the 80's saw the writing slow down, Touch is quite complex although Jer does manage to solo over it...West LA has a good feel...Throwing Stones, Bucket, Esau all have some sophisticated progressions and each has their moments...haven't sat down with it yet, but i haven't heard anything before that even sounds remotely like the solos that Jer pulls off over the unusual changes of Victim or the Crime...Foolish Heart also has some unusual changes that i have to check out

lost interest after that...

so there you have it, most of it from distant memory, far from comprehensive, but then again, it would probably take 5 to 10 years to pull a "Gilamonster" and not only listen, but document the entire evolution in a theoretical sense

could be wrong, but i get the feeling that we disagree solely on subjective terms

in any case, one hell of a thread!

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jan 26, 2010 6:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

Well...we're listening to different things, so it's difficult to reply.

I think our terminology of what's "complex" is pretty different. For instance, I think the Anthem album/songs have lots of complex things going on, that aren't in the chords. That was one phase when the Dead were aiming high, playing at the top of their skills and trying to be as far-out & challenging as they knew how to be....
It makes sense that as they grew older & soaked in more influences, they'd add more chords & techniques to their songs (so '80s/90s shows have, at least, lots more musical variety). But I don't think the complexity of a song can be boiled down to just the chords & modes as in your post....there's the rhythm/time, the melody/harmony lines, the interaction of guitar parts, the 'flow' or easiness of playing, lots of things to consider.

As late as the '90s, Garcia was still complaining about how hard it was to play St Stephen or Cosmic Charlie, even though they'd been composed way back in '68! Whereas something like Terrapin which you noted was unusually designed, seems to have been easy to play.

I'd emphasize that, to the untrained ear, the songs of '69-72 do seem to take a step back in complexity - they sound fairly simple, that is. I was surprised to see songs like To Lay Me Down & Sugar Mag listed as having more complex structures than earlier songs, since they don't sound like it...I'd thought that most the songs Garcia was writing in that time were designed for ease of playing. (As you say, they're "easy to solo over".) And there are many songs you didn't list that must be pretty regular even in chord charts!
'73 is the point where I can tell the Dead's songs are becoming more 'sophisticated'.

It's worth separating the different Dead composers as well. Garcia didn't like songwriting much (so he claimed), but he was natural, almost everything of his flows. Weir was not a songwriter at all....he often took YEARS to finish a song, and that only by piecing together a bunch of half-finished progressions. (Playing in the Band, the Weather Report suite, Music Never Stopped, are some examples of this.) He was also the most open to composing unusual, difficult songs; the result being that his songs tend to be full of challenging progressions, while lacking any of the memorable melodies or riffs that came so easily to Garcia.

It would be worthwhile to take a look at every single original Dead song & analyze them to see the stylistic changes over time - your post is a starting point, anyway. (I don't think it would take 5 years, either!)

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Poster: midnight sun Date: Jan 27, 2010 12:11pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

can't tell you how much i appreciate seeing your post this morning, after logging off last night i had this horrible sinking feeling that i had been grossly unfair with my over-analysis...last thing i want to do is discourage

i was well past the bulk of my formative musical training before first experiencing a GD show, what hooked me was the combination of sophisticated chord progressions and instrumental abilities coupled with genuine rare to see both! Bird Song, Loser and Stella touched more than a few nerves, i mentioned in one of my first posts here, "My first show, 4-9-82 I was absolutely enamored by a very eerie rendition of To Lay Me Down. I remember saying to myself over and over again 'this is how country music SHOULD be played'."

chord progression is similar in all genres, the only thing that is different is the "style" through which the changes are rendered and the only limitation is the "context"...jazz allows for more possibilities because the context is so open to not only greater possibilities of progressions but alternate changes and extensions with the original progressions, in some ways it is more difficult to play due to complexity of progression but in other ways it is easier because of greater possibilities of what is acceptable within the context...this is not to suggest that anything can be played and still sound good, just that the context allows for more choices to extend from the chordal or scale tones, choices that must still be made based on what "sounds good", subjective for both musician and any case, in a strict theoretical sense it has all be done before in classical music a hundred or so years ago (so i've been told)

you're right there are many songs from 69>72 (and beyond) i didn't list that are quite simple in structure, i have to confess to some "subjective cherry picking" in this regard, the songs i gravitate towards tend to be the ones with involved progressions (many of these i also didn't list)'re original point that they encompassed many genres stands, as well as the fact that they kept a lot of tunes with simple structures in their repertoire right till the end, my statement "they started out blues/folk/country (modal) and then started developing into more sophisticated changes" wasn't meant to preclude earlier forms as the development occurred, so in this sense my Miles/GD "opposing theories" isn't altogether sound, as Miles went from extreme complexity to single chord modal structures and stayed there (could be wrong about this as i haven't listened to everything post Silent Way)

never found Garcia's tunes difficult to learn, the structures are so logical and his playing is so definitive there is little doubt as to what he is doing, even though the chords wind their way through some ingenious musical progressions they are not difficult to solo over (in that same 78 interview he said he wrote his tunes with improvisation in mind), suspect a lot of it has to do with the extreme emotional conviction he puts forth...i would also have to think that some of the additions to his tunes are band contributions, such as the modulations added to the end of those early "Eyes"...interesting that they dropped this development, in a sense one could consider the later Eyes as being "devolved"

as you point out, Weir's compositions are a tangle of half baked ideas, he admitted that the band helped him fill in the blanks, going as far as to compare his approach to Tom Sawyer sucking his friends into white washing the fence for him...Jerry mentioned how important it was for him to be challenged by Bob's structures, how they pulled him out of his shell by stirring up ideas that may not have transpired if he had been left to his own path of least resistance...i find Bob's tunes to be quite a bit more difficult to decipher, many of the changes feel forced and many seem ambiguous, at times i'm hearing him and the keyboards playing what sounds like different chord extensions making it difficult to pin down the progression

i also find it interesting that most GD songs feature a solo section(s) across the chord progressions and another solo section in a simplified form (usually at the end and very much open-ended) this actually incorporates both structural extremes within the same tune, no doubt the "work" being done in the more complex solo sections contributes to the ideas and energy released a short while later in the open section..."opposing theories"

writers of musical biographies say that it takes them a good 10 years to complete their work on a single musician...i would think that one would want to include performance as well compositional development, which as you state tends to follow at a later might be right that a work of this magnitude could be done in a shorter time span if music theory was the only focus (a lot of time would be saved by excluding personal and professional research) and no doubt the archive would be more than an ample source of research...but nonetheless epic in proportion to my measly effort to date

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jan 27, 2010 1:52pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

A brief note -
You could no doubt spend a lifetime studying Garcia alone, and still not 'finish'.
It could take 10 years or more simply to hear & become familiar with all his shows, across many bands....
Or, if you were just concentrating on style & theory, you needn't listen to many shows at all, when just song examples would do.

I think what you accomplish depends on what your focus is. I'm focused on the first half of the Dead's career, as a band - it means I'm very vague on their last 10 years - but at least I'm well-acquainted with the years I do listen to. Not enough for my standards....there are still years of listening & re-listening to do before I could call myself really knowledgeable about the early Dead. I'm still in a crash self-education program.

Research on the Dead, anyway, is in its infancy. Hard to believe when it's been over for 15 years, but there's very little serious writing about them so far. (As opposed to numerous books on the music of, say, the Beatles. Which, granted, was far more influential.) A nearly-complete range of the early shows has only become available in the last 10/15 years anyway - internet resources about the music are still relatively frugal and out-of-date. So I feel like my posts are an incomplete, unfinished mosaic, which at least the writers/listeners of the future can take further.

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Poster: jglynn1.2 Date: Jan 26, 2010 9:07am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam


I’ll take a melody and see what I can do about it.
I’ll take a simple C to G and feel brand new about it.

This post was modified by jglynn1.2 on 2010-01-26 17:07:55

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Poster: direwolf0701 Date: Jan 26, 2010 9:29am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

"wow" is right.

i feel so lowly after reading those two very informed posts. then again, i suppose that is my natural state.

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Poster: midnight sun Date: Jan 26, 2010 2:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

better yet, you and jglynn can take a simple C and add a Bb bass and feel wicked about it ;)

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Poster: direwolf0701 Date: Jan 26, 2010 3:24pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

yeah!! i would ROCK that!!!


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Poster: midnight sun Date: Jan 26, 2010 3:38pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

hey LiA, hope i didn't come across like a dick with my reply (?) i'm just feeling a little manic these days with the sun finally returning and this thread got me psyched

composition is only one small part of all of this, looking forward to checking out all of those jams you listed for some more clues...always a pleasure

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jan 26, 2010 8:47pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

There's a lot of sections of early jams that feed into later songs....for instance, the way the Main Ten was incorporated into Playing in the Band, the Mind Left Body riff was used in Music Never Stopped, some 'loose' riffs like Feelin' Groovy and Bid You Goodnight became standard parts of songs.
The early Dead were musical magpies who were always happy to nab themes they heard here & there - like the Spanish Jam, FG, Tighten Up, Darkness, Nobody's Fault... I don't think this much 'quoting' takes place in later years, when the Dead had built up more of their own language - though there are some famed exceptions.
The 1975 studio rehearsals are very interesting listening if you want to hear how the Dead jammed 'for themselves', and to hear all the ideas getting tried out that ended up being dropped. And I always recommend that 1969 home rehearsal with Feelin' Groovy & the instrumental Uncle John being explored for the first time.

You mention that Let It Grow had an "unprecedented" latin/jazzy rhythm.... I might be wrong about this, but I think it was precedented, most especially in the Tighten Up jams of 1970 - or also check the unusual jam in the Other One on 4/15/70. Those might be more straightforward in rhythm though, and don't change tempos like Let It Grow.

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Poster: midnight sun Date: Jan 27, 2010 6:36pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

had a good listen to first half of Anthem (and glad i did)...looks like i jumped the gun on Cryptical and New Potato (that's one of the problems with this board, so little time to research something this involved before the thread disappears)

the Cyptical "The summer sun looked down on him..." section has what sounds like diminished chord changes;
Emi /D /C G(B bass)/Ami Ami(G bass)/
F F#dim /G G#dim /Ami A#dim /B7 //

Phil plays the ascending chromatic bass line while someone plays acoustic guitar classical riffs (Bob?)...there is no "block" chording in this section to able to be absolutely certain (live versions tend to be too "ampy" to hear the nuances) if anyone has a different take on these changes (GB?) i would be grateful to see another opinion

New Potato also has some interesting changes;
D then to C#mi and F#, then to A...
for "all graceful instruments are..." the chords are;
Bbmaj7 and Ebmaj7#11 (mostly in the vocal arrangment, there might be a passing chord or 2 in there as well) then back to D for "...known."

so ya, you're right that there is some advanced changes here, although not generally as developed overall as 69>?...i'm also not very familiar with large part of their development, for me it is mostly the first and last 10 years i'm hazy about, i thank you for your patience with me on these early years

we may not be hearing all that different, what you might be referring to as "complex" could be the actual "arrangements" (orchestrations), which are indeed quite bit more involved than post Aoxomoxoa, rather than the chord structures i'm onto...most of these guys did live together in the early years, so it makes sense that they would be rehearsing a relatively small repertoire more often than later on

Tighten Up is definitely an Eyes precursor, and a very fast Eyes could be construed as the latin rhythms of Let It Grow...the 4/15/70 Other One you mention gets into some madness around the 4 min mark, i can see where something like that could lead towards Let It Grow

btw, nice touch on that last post,
re - "...very little serious writing about them so far..."
i like to refer to what is known as "fake books" when i learn jazz standards because they only give the notated melody and the chord changes, that way i can allow myself to develop my own ideas and arrangement w/o being influenced by whoever i would be listening to if i was learning straight off a recording (the downside to this is my "ear" for picking out chords has grown lazy over the years, as i found out this afternoon...) how i would like to have a GD book like that w/o having to laboriously learn and pen every song (similar to David Dodd's, but for music only) and how easy it would be to turn on other musicians to the music w/o having to persuade them to listen and learn the tunes themselves...would also allow for a project to take it's own direction, some of the musicians interpreting GD who may not have ever even listened to them...

the possibilities...

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jan 28, 2010 3:49am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: tighten up, beautiful jam

True, it's the arrangements on Anthem that are pretty complex.... They avoided such complicated arrangements for a long time after that!

You're right about Eyes being a Let It Grow precursor, I think Weir was influenced by it. (They'd been playing Eyes for 7 months before he finished Let It Grow.) Speed up Eyes a bit, there's a definite resemblance in places - for instance, the transition from the chorus to the jam. (This was even more obvious in later years when they did speed up Eyes into kind of a rumba....)